Belfast Telegraph

Corrie stars mourn Betty Driver

The Rovers Return will not be the same without Betty Driver, the longest-serving screen barmaid on Coronation Street, mourners were told at her funeral.

Stars of the long-running ITV1 soap, past and present, joined her family and friends in packing into the intimate surroundings of the 18th century St Ann's Church in Manchester city centre, while several hundred fans watched the proceedings on a big screen outside.

The idea to screen the service, the choice of music and the colour of the flowers had all been meticulously planned by Driver, apparently since January this year.

Tears were shed for the much-loved actress, who died a week ago in hospital aged 91 after a period of ill health. But the theme of the day was very much a celebration of a life steeped in showbusiness.

A total of 42 years - and more than 2,850 episodes - in her role as Betty Williams (Turpin) and before that a highly successful 40 years as a singer and film star were recalled by those giving tribute at the service - co-star Helen Worth (Gail McIntyre), theatre impresario Bill Kenwright and her personal assistant Charles Orr.

Worth said: "She was the ultimate professional and knew everything there was to showbiz, including stealing your scene without any words," she said, to laughter. A perfect look timed to perfection which lit up the screen.She never wanted it to end. Her place behind the bar at the Rovers was always kept open."

Kenwright, who played her screen son Gordon, spoke of his "second mother" and a "wonderful actress".

Remembering the heyday of variety in the 30s, 40s and 50s when acts would tour the length of Britain, he said: "Betty was a huge, huge star in variety." Her joining Coronation Street was, he said, "when this juggernaut of love started".

A recording of Driver singing The World Will Sing Again, which she sang in Europe and the Middle East during the war years with Henry Hall and his dance band, was played to the congregation. A standing ovation greeted the end of the final note.

A private interment followed the service, which was attended by Street stars past and present, including William Roache (Ken Barlow), Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Bill Tarmey (Jack Duckworth), Roy Barraclough (Alec Gilroy), Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster), Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts) and Sarah Lancashire (Raquel Watts).


From Belfast Telegraph